WASHINGTON, (CMC) — The United States says it will be starting a program to provide lawyers for Caribbean and other children facing deportation.
Under the plan, the US federal government will issue $2 million in grants to enroll about 100 lawyers and paralegals to represent immigrant children making their way through the immigration court system.
“We’re taking a historic step to strengthen our justice system and protect the rights of the most vulnerable members of society,” said US Attorney General Eric H Holder Jr.
“How we treat those in need, particularly young people who must appear in immigration proceedings, many of whom are fleeing violence, persecution, abuse or trafficking goes to the core of who we are as a nation,” he added.
US administration officials have been trying to cope with a surge of unaccompanied children that has overwhelmed border officials as well the nation’s family and immigration court systems.
They say the initiative, announced on Friday, is aimed at helping children under the age of 16 who have already received a court notice to appear for deportation proceedings but are not in the custody of the federal government.
Since October, more than 47,000 children travelling without parents have been caught trying to cross the southwest border, a 92 per cent increase over the same period last year, according to the Times.
It said the Obama administration has ordered federal emergency authorities to coordinate a multi-agency response to the relief effort, adding that officials have opened two emergency shelters on military bases to house as many as 1,800 youths.
According to a report by Kids in Need of Defence, a nonprofit group that matches unaccompanied minors with volunteer lawyers, and the University of California Hastings College of the Law, a majority of minors who appear in immigration court do not have lawyers representing them.
Officials said they expect about 10,000 unaccompanied children would appear in immigration courts in the 29 cities that are the initiative’s geographic focus.